Category Archives: Marco Richards Blog

Safe Water for Global Health

Water safety is part of water quality management. While most water is used in irrigation and it does need to be sufficiently pure, there are stricter standards for drinking water. Irrigation water just requires there to be low salinity, low algae content and low heavy metal concentration. Drinking water has addition requirements to make it safe to drink.

Every human needs a couple of litres of water to drink every day and we also need another couple of dozen litres for bathing and washing. We also use water to clean our cooking utensils, bowls, plates and dishes, as well as cleaning our floors, eating surfaces and cars. All of these require relatively pure water that is not found in nature very often.

To drink water, we must ensure that the water is not contaminated with bacteria, viruses and parasites that will cause disease. We take it for granted in developed countries that we will not get sick from drinking tap water, but for billions of the world’s poor, water is not safe to drink and they often lack plumbing.

Water Treatment

To get water into your tap, we take water from relatively clean freshwater sources. These are often from reservoirs and rivers near the towns and cities where people live. These water sources are kept clean by the local government and managed for algae and other containments. If containments do make their way into water sources for drinking, the government will spread news of any problems and offer suggestions, such as boiling water before drinking it.

Before the water enters pipes to be distributed to households, the water needs to be purified. This is first done by filtering the water. Large filters start off at the beginning of the process and make their way down to smaller filters such as activated carbon.

Then sometimes other chemicals are added to neutralize any potential diseases in the water. These chemicals include chlorine similar to pool chlorine. Some water utilities will add fluorine for dental health.

Comparison to the Developing World

In comparison to the developed world, developing countries often lack the infrastructure to store, filter, purify and distribute water. Many people still drink water directly from rivers and wells. This is not good for sanitation because there are many potential diseases you can catch from these sources.

Sewerage Management

As well as making sure we purify drinking water, sewerage must be disposed of to not interfere with the processes we undertake to purify drinking water. Proper disposal of sewerage makes everyone’s job easier.

In the developing world, sewerage is not disposed of properly and it often left in streets and gutters where it is washed back into water sources for drinking water. In this way the diseases enter a loop where someone gets sick and then the disease is transmitted from their sewerage back into everyone’s drinking water.

The World Health Organization goes into this in depth on their website.

Physical Water Safety

Another overlooked water safety topic is ensuring citizens don’t accidentally drown. We need to ensure that dams are properly fenced to prevent accidental drownings. Also dam walls need to be protected from anyone climbing on them and falling off.

In developed countries we have our plumbing underground or out of site in buildings. This ensures we don’t accidentally trip on plumbing. In developing countries, they need to ensure they follow similar safety standards to prevent injuries.

There are many topics in water safety and we need to ensure the world has access to safe drinking water. It’s out number one mission because without safe drinking water, we are nothing.

Largest Dams in the World

Humans are the only species to master nature to the extent we can block rivers in their entirety and regulate their flow. To do so is necessary for maintaining steady river depths downstream, to prevent floods and generate hydroelectricity. Since ancient times we have been doing this and other hydraulic engineering. The Romans built huge aqueducts that have lasted millennia and are still in use today. Since the re-discovery of concrete in the 19th century and the introduction of earthmoving equipment, we’ve been extending our dam building skills to extraordinary levels. In this post I’ll go through the largest dams of the world.

Aswan Dam

Aswan Dam

Photo of the dam from space, courtesy of NASA.

This is by far the largest dam in the world by the volume of its reservoir. It holds the Nile back and stores a massive 132 cubic kilometres of water! Egypt is an incredibly dry country, so they rely on the dam for irrigation, otherwise nothing would grow.

Prior to the dam’s construction, the Nile flooded the fertile plains on its banks every year and this was unreliable. Some years it would flood too well and other years not enough. The Egyptians needed to control the floods.

In the 1950s, Egypt was a progressive society after having overthrown the monarchy. During Nasser’s presidency, the decision to build the dam was finally made, hence the name of the reservoir is Lake Nasser and construction started in 1960. The dam started filling in 1964 and construction was finished in 1970.

In addition to the dam, there is a hydroelectricity station with an installed capacity of 2 100 MW.

For further reading, Wikipedia has the details.


Nurek Dam

Nurek Dam

Photo taken by Ibrahim Rustamov.

Nurek Dam is the tallest dam in the world at 300 m high. It holds back the Vakhsh River and it is thought that when it first filled, the water column stressed a fault and caused a minor earthquake.

The reservoir is over 70 km in length and irrigates local land in Tajikistan. At the base of the dam is a hydroelectricity plant with an installed capacity of 3 015 MW.

For further reading, Wikipedia has the details.


Tarbela Dam

Tarbela Dam

Photo taken during the 2010 floods.

The largest dam by volume of its structure is Tarbela Dam in Pakistan. This massive dam impounds the Indus River approximately 50 km northwest of Islamabad.

It’s an earth filled dam with a volume of 153 million cubic metres! Total height is 143 m and has a 3 478 MW hydroelectricity plant at the bottom.

The Indus River is filled from the snow melt in the Himalayas each year and this carries sedimentation with it. The amount of sedimentation deposited in the reservoir has been lower than expected, but the dam is still expected to be full of sediment and non-useful by 2060.

For futher reading, Wikipedia has the details.


We’re a marvelous species and we know how to secure the resources we need to sustain our lifestyle. Each dam is a sophisticated piece of engineering and requires countless hours of study and research by environmental scientists, geologists, meteorologists, hydrologists, civil, mechanical and electrical engineers. These three dams are by different measures, the largest dams in the world and they are engineering masterpieces.

Welcome to Global Water Connect

Welcome to the website. We aim to connect stakeholders in the water industry, agriculture, government, academia and citizens together and develop water policy to protect the environment and build a strong economy. Global Water Connect is based in Canada, but we have contacts all around the world.

Water is becoming an increasingly concerning issue to all around the world. Access to fresh water is a human right. We need to secure clean drinking water for all and also fresh water for irrigated agriculture. The world population is growing and this is becoming more of a concern as time goes on.

Drinking Water

Cities and towns around the world, from Australia, New Zealand, Argentina, South Africa all the way up to Canada are increasingly struggling to find enough drinking water to satisfy the needs of their population. The world population is increasingly moving into cities, so cities with water shortages will find their problems getting worse if we don’t take action.


To succeed in our goals, we need to develop methods to manage our water resources effectively. Our largest use of fresh water is in irrigated agriculture. The Global WaterConnect website will link those who have developed the best practices in managing irrigation together.

We will connect those who are developing irrigation technology and water resource management technology together. This synergy will develop better techniques overall to conserve our most precious resource.

Weather Forecasting

Climate change and weather have a massive impact on all us, but the way it impacts us the most is through our access to water. There is no other cost effective source of fresh water apart from that which falls out of the sky. This is a limited renewable resource which we need to effectively manage to deliver positive outcomes for all.

Climate change can not be managed to the extent we would hope for it to be, so we must plan ahead to develop a strategy to deal with our water assets so that we can continue to live with high living standards. Rainfall will be less predictable and rainfall patterns will shift as we move into a future with greater carbon dioxide concentration.


Our dam building efforts need to be weighed against the environmental impact they cause. Dams flood forests and natural environments further upstream as part of the damming of the river. This displaces local animals and will destroy vegetation that’s flooded. Hence the building of dams is partly responsible for climate change.

This needs to be weighed against the economic benefits of regulating the river to enable irrigated agriculture. Human needs for food will always take priority, but our best efforts to minimize the impact on the environment are necessary too.


Developing a website to connect those who engage in the best practices in water management is necessary to overcome our challenges of meeting human needs in a space with more restricted access to water. We must act now before it is too late. Connecting the innovators, scientists and industry leaders is important to come up with the best solutions to our water problems.